For Dr. Loren Hamel and Dr. Benjamin Chu, the key to innovation within the healthcare industry lies with people. Dr. Hamel serves as CEO of Lakeland Health, an organization responsible for numerous hospitals, practices, and clinics across Southwestern Michigan. Dr. Chu serves as executive vice president of Kaiser Foundation Hospitals and president of Kaiser Permanente Southern California. Both men have demonstrated their ability to make big changes by taking a closer look at the people in their systems. In their eyes, focusing on the experiences of patients and caregivers alike is crucial to innovating in an evolving healthcare industry.

Dr. Hamel recently faced a daunting task in addressing the mediocre patient satisfaction scores at Lakeland Health, stuck between the 25th and 50th percentile. Yet his ultimate solution would take those scores to the 95th percentile a mere 90 days after his new ideas were implemented. This was achieved through a “Bring Your Heart to Work” campaign, which succeeded with little to no additional financial resources and a lot of help from Lakeland Health’s employees.

Dr. Hamel asked staff and caregivers to take an emotional interest in the experience of their patients. He described the process saying, “Every time you interact with a patient, tell them who you are, what you’re there to do, and then share a heartfelt why.” The “why” was designed to make the patient’s fears and hopes a top priority for the employees interacting with them. Not only did patient satisfaction skyrocket but many in the work environment also became less tolerant of coworkers with rude or impolite attitudes.

At Kaiser Permanente, Dr. Chu, much like Dr. Hamel, had to consider how performance data offered a window into the affairs of his organization. Kaiser Permanente launched a system called POINT, or Permanente Online Interactive Network, to offer providers a closer look at performance data for physicians. Dr. Chu describes transparency of performance as crucial, particularly for physicians.

Dr. Chu also sought to decentralize Kaiser’s healthcare campus, even rebuilding several medical offices. First, they sought the opinions of their members before looking to administrators, physicians and nurses to seek their opinions on changes that could be made. Talking about these reforms, Dr. Chu said, “If you take the time to really think about a framework that taps into the hearts and minds of the frontline people, you can really accelerate transformation in a big way.”

While technology played a key role for both Dr. Hamel and Dr. Chu in understanding their organizations, it was their focus on people that ultimately yielded innovation. This was a focus on patients, members, staff, caregivers, and even administrators, which helped to create something new and better than what had existed before. For more information visit:

Innovate with your heart not your head

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Author: Jim Wiederhold

Jim believes his 39 years of experience--particularly his more than 26 years in healthcare--has prepared him well for what he does. His wealth of experience spans key areas, including finance, operations, management, leadership, sales and sales management, corporate, contingency, contractual and retained recruiting, outplacement and transition work and executive coaching.